Thursday, March 26, 2015

Empties II

According to my phone I took this photo February 22, and I hadn't had time to post it until today. Obvious these things are not very up to date, and I've finish a bunch of shit in the meantime, which will have to wait until who knows when for a post. It's like some very boring version of time travel.

I didn't arrange them in the photo in a way that is conducive to neat categorization, I'm afraid, so I hope my grouping isn't too annoying. (As usual I'm not necessarily going to say much about shampoo/conditioner or foils unless there was something memorable about them.)

I have such a ridiculous hoard of mini shampoos and lotions and foils that I'm trying to use them up before I buy any more full size products, so expect lots of little things for the next while.


Boots No. 7 Lift and Luminate foundation: Reviewed here. As you can see, I sadly did not finish it before it started to separate, and since it's in an airtight pump, I can't even shake it to mix it together a bit. I like the formula, but it's too dark, so I don't know if I'd buy it again, even though I have some white base to mix with it. And now no use for the white.

Be a Bombshell Eyeliner in Onyx: Got it from Ipsy once upon a time. It's a really fat felt tip pen. It only used it a few times before it dried up.

Mascara: I got this in a consumer testing program, so I'm not allowed to say what brand it is. But if you know your mascara tube shapes, you might recognize it. It's a pretty famous one. If you could see the brush, you would definitely recognize it. That's all I'm going to say! Sshhhh!

Lancome Cils Booster XL Mascara Primer (mini): Honestly, I'm not sure these primers do anything that another coat of mascara wouldn't do.

e.l.f. Long-Lasting Lustrous Eyeshadow in Party: Reviewed here. It still hadn't dried up, but the smell went funky, so it had to go. But it lasted 2 years, not bad for a cream shadow.

Avon Glazewear Lip Gloss in Apple Cinnamon: Reviewed here. The longer I had this, the grittier it got, so when it started to look chunky in the tube too, I tossed it. It probably had it for two years before it got bad.


Teadora Rainforest at Dawn Shampoo and Conditioner (minis): Really mediocre, packaged in stiff bottles that you can't squeeze, and certainly not worth the price.

Jhirmack SilverPlus shampoo: This is dark purple shampoo that I bought this when I tried to dye my hair dark blond and it turned strawberry blond. It made no difference - I guess it only works on very light hair. It is an extremely strong shampoo that was good for weekly clarifying, though.

Nexxus Humectress conditioner: One of my favorite conditioners ever. Make my hair soft and shiny and easy to comb.

Dove Oxygen Moisture shampoo (mini)

Davines OI Conditioner (foil)

Lotions and Moisturizers

Ahava Age-Perfecting SPF 15 hand cream (foil): Smells like sunscreen and wasn't particularly moisturizing. I wouldn't buy it anyway, because I make an effort not to buy products from companies that operate in the occupied territories.

Chanel Le Lift Anti-Wrinkle Cream (foil): No noticeable effects other than a fucking obnoxious fragrance.

Philosophy Renewed Hope (foil)

Moody Sisters Lightweight Moisturizer (foil): Now this is interesting. Initially I thought the package must be mislabeled, because it's a thin, watery substance like a toner. But no, that's what this moisturizer is. It's a bit mess to apply as a result, but it works very well. It has a light lavender scent.

DermOrganic Hand/Body Moisture Lotion (mini): This worked okay, but sometimes it left a scent on my hands that was almost like fake tanner. Wouldn't buy it.

Gold Bond Ultimate Moisturizing Skin Therapy Lotion (mini): Got this in my Xmas stocking. It's a very effective hand cream.

Other Skin Care

Simple Cleaning Facial Wipes: My favorite. Effective without drying me out.

Pacifica Sea Foam cleanser (mini): Reviewed here.

Real Chemistry Luminous 3-Minute Peel (mini): Got it from Birchbox. Never noticed any results whatsoever when using it (and it was large enough for several uses).

Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish (mini): Got it from Birchbox, and it was something I'd wanted to try. Overall I think the cloth and the multi-step process do more to really cleanse your skin than the actual cleanser. It was a little too creamy for me, so I ended up using it as a first step when I was wearing a lot of makeup, and then washing again with a lighter face wash after. I wouldn't buy it.

Coppertone Clearly Sheer SPF 30 sunscreen (mini): Reviewed here. This tube was separating (maybe from freezing during air travel?), and I have so many other sunscreens, it's not worth dealing with.

Lip Balm

I have been making a serious effort to finish some of my open lip balms before starting any new ones.

Labello Soft Rosé: This was an impulse purchase in an Italian grocery store, even though I know that I don't usually find these Labello/Nivea lip balms very impressive. It smells lovely but isn't very effective. I used it up by layering it at night over Paula's Choice Lip and Body Treatment Balm, which works better but smells awful. Together they're a good team.

Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Lip Balm: Here's what I have to say about this.

So that's it! And I have another bag half full under my desk that I will have to get to soon.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Birchbox update

In my post about my frustration with the samples Birchbox is sending me, Rebecca from Hello Pretty Bird commented that I might consider contacting customer service and seeing if they could make any suggestions. I put off doing that until I saw that they are sending me two moisturizers in this month's box. Two fucking lotions in in the same box. COME ON. So I sent off an email (politely) expressing my disappointment with the last few months and my impression that the things I'm getting don't seem to match the settings in my profile. I got an interesting response. The customer service agent enrolled me in their beta program, which I've heard about before, that allows you to select categories from which they will only send you 4 products each year. They're divided into body, hair, makeup, nails, and skincare. She suggested adjusting just 3-5 categories so that there would still be enough options for them to choose from. So I went ahead and selected lotion, sun protection, moisturizer, and self tanner as things I'm not interested in. The makeup categories are just "eyes," "lips," "cheeks", etc., so I can't really do anything about the fact that they only send me black eyeliner and sheer lip products. I do want eye and lip products, just not boring ones.

I'll see if this makes any difference in what I receive, though I only have 3 months left in my prepaid subscription, so if the year starts now rather than at the beginning of 2015, it might not have much effect. I will report back!

Has anyone else used this beta thing? Any results?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Blog sale

I was going to try out Glambot to sell some of my makeup (google it if you're interested - I am concerned about potential shadiness and don't want to link directly). Glambot is a company that buys new and used cosmetics, sanitizes the used ones, and resells them. I thought it might be a convenient way to get rid of some things, since I could just mail everything in one batch and avoid the individual packing and shipping that accompanies a blog sale - even if I got a little bit less back in return for their doing most of the work. The first few times I looked at the site, they required you to send a minimum of 10 items, and they only accept certain high end brands that they list there. So I gradually collected 10 things that were new or almost new and that I was willing to part with, and went back to the website to request a shipping label. Well, not you have to send a minimum of 20 items. I don't have 20 fancy things I want to sell, so fuck that. I'll just do a blog sale, again.

(And seeing this information makes me happy that I didn't use Glambot in the end.)

I've listed the biggest and best things that I was planning to send away here. I don't have time to negotiate prices, but I think they are very reasonable, considering these things have barely been used at all. I'm also offering a discount if you want the whole lot, since I really want to get these things off out of my apartment and into a more loving home.

(I previous gave away a huge box of makeup from brands that Glambot wouldn't accept on Freecycle, and that was almost more work than doing a blog sale. Not that a blog sale is such an arduous task, but at least half a dozen people from Freecycle emailed me asking for the stuff and then just responded when I tried to arrange for them to pick it up.)

Shipping is $3.50 for the first 3 items and 50 cents for each additional item. If you want tracking (which I recommend), it's an extra $1. I'll pack everything up very carefully, but I'm not responsible for any damage that occurs during shipping (my mail carrier likes to overhand packages at my front door - I hope yours is more careful).

Email me at cheapasf AT gmail DOT com with the items you'd like, whether or not you want tracking, and your mailing address, and I will send them off as soon as I receive payment. I accept PayPal only. Nail polish can only be shipped within the US, but if you would like to me to ship any of the makeup items internationally, let me know, and I can look into the shipping costs.


I can't find the battery charger for my camera, so please accept this phone photo, and let me know if you have any questions.
Urban Decay Dangerous Palette: $10 (photos here - hasn't been used since that was posted)

TheBalm Meet Matt(e) Nude Palette: $14 (photos here - hasn't been used since that was posted)

Tarte Emphaseyes Clay Shadow Stick in Moss: $4 (used twice)

Tarina Tarantino Hyperliner in Cute Robot: $4 (brand new)

Too Faced La Creme Lipstick in Cinnamon Kiss: $7 (used 2-3 times)

TheBalm Mary Lou Manizer: $8 (used a few times, see photo)

All of the above makeup for $45 shipped.

Nail polish:

China Glaze Turned Up Turquoise (used 3 times):  $3

OPI (left to right) I Have a Herring Problem, Black Cherry Chutney, It's Totally Fort Worth It, I'm Not Really a Waitress (used 0-1 time each): $4 each

All nail polish for $14 shipped.

All makeup and nail polish for $55 shipped.

(Obviously the batch deals expire once someone has bought individual items from the groups.)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Can alcohol ever be ok in skin care products?

I seem to become more middle of the road in my approach to ingredients the more I learn about them. I still don't want anyone trying to trick me by putting a bunch of shit in a product that isn't going to do me any good, but I'm not so paranoid that I think a little bit of fragrance is going to turn me into an old hag, necessarily, anymore.

Alcohol is one of those ingredients, like fragrance or preservatives, that gets demonized in skin care (though the people worried about fragrance and the people worried about preservatives tend to belong to separate camps). A lot of skin care products contain alcohol. But does it actually serve a useful purpose, or is it just in there to improve the product's texture while ultimately producing damaging results?

Here are some different perspectives from sources that I think are generally smart and reliable (i.e. not the EWG):

Alcohol is always bad (except fatty alcohols).

Alcohol is fine.

Alcohol can serve a purpose in small quantities.

At this point, I am not bothered by a little alcohol somewhere near the second half of the ingredients list. However, if you're trying to sell me a fucking $95 serum that has SD alcohol as the second ingredient (after water and followed by boring ingredients like glycerin and silicone), I'm going to have to pass, thanks anyway.

What's your take on alcohol on your face, not just in your glass?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rouge Bunny Rouge is on HauteLook again!

Disclosure: This post contains a referral link.
I don't need any more fucking eyeshadow. I don't need any more fucking eyeshadow. I don't need any more fucking eyeshadow. I don't need any more fucking eyeshadow. I don't need any more fucking eyeshadow.

Or do I?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Birchbox Revisited

One of the posts that gets the most views on here is my Birchbox vs. Ipsy post from last summer. Most of those hits come from Google. High SEO value there, I guess. I wrote that when I was getting pretty sour on Ipsy and excited to be going back to Birchbox. But lately BB has been kind of lackluster for me, so I thought I figured I write an update. I don't want to mislead anyone when I'm not quite so into it anymore.

Is it just that the honeymoon period is over? I don't think so. When I compare the first few boxes I got from Birchbox, like this one (I ended up really loving the No. 4 hair product) or this one, with what they're sending me now, the more recent boxes really do seem much less interesting. My profile says that I prefer makeup and nail polish over everything else, and that my style is "adventurous" and "trendy." (Maybe that's a lie, but I have enough "natural" and "classic" products in my hoard already. I want to try something new).

See what you think. Here are my boxes from January and February:

In January I took advantage of their new "pick your sample" option to choose a Tocca hand cream, which I was really looking forward to trying. Then my box went missing in the mail, and they sent me this as a replacement. Apparently the sample I had chosen was out of stock. This contains a strongly scented peppermint body lotion which is the kind of thing you'd find in a mid-range hotel. I mean that literally: the brand that makes this (Gilchrist & Soames) is all over hotels, and it's the kind of product you use out of desperation when you realize you didn't remember to bring a better lotion from home. There's an AHA mask, which I guess I will try out. They sent a black eyeliner, which is boring, but useful, I suppose, and at least it's full size. The bottle on the left is aloe face wash, which again is boring but will be used. And the tub at the bottom is some kind of "invisible daily tint" (how is a tint invisible???) with no eeeeeeeevil chemicals like silicone in it. It's absolute shit. It's too dark for me (as most samples of this type are), so it's certainly not invisible. Beside the color making it not invisible, it is streaky and  fucking chunky when you try to spread it on your face. Lovely! Give me all the silicone, please, if this is what natural gets you. In this entire box, there is nothing that interests me in the slightest, much less excites me.

Okay, so that was a replacement box, and maybe they had run out of all the good stuff at that point. But in February I got the box that was supposedly tailored to me, so it should be better, right? Check it out:

birchbox review

This time I chose the Marcelle eye makeup remover as my sample for some reason. I don't usually use eye makeup remover (I just use Cetaphil lotion), but it's a Canadian brand, and I've heard good things about it, so it sucked me in. At the left side of the box are shampoo and conditioner samples. Maybe not thrilling, but I was at least satisfied with the big bottle of shampoo, because I'm running low. This saves me from having to buy more for a week or two. In the middle: more Gilchrist and Soames - body wash this time. So cheap they couldn't even be bothered to put the tube together correctly so that the label would be centered. Then that tiny Benefit lip balm that is twisted all the way up in this photo. That's how muchactual product  is in that huge package. What a waste. It's barely tinted and smells like roses. Yawn. And a perfume sample. I do not like getting perfume samples, and I ticked the box in my profile asking them not to send me more than 6 per year. Unfortunately, I think that means per calendar year, and since I signed up for my year subscription in July, I could technically get one every single month I'm subscribed. So far there's only been one box without perfume. Not cool.

So does this box say makeup + nail polish + trendy + adventurous then? I guess lip balm is sort of like makeup, but is mostly-clear balm trendy or is it adventurous?

Birchbox is supposed to be a service that introduces me to new, exciting products so that I will buy them from their suppliers. They're not sending me exciting things, and they're not sending me things that fit my profile.

I don't know if choosing a sample is the problem. There are apparently limited box combinations, so if you choose a sample, you have to get one of the predetermined combinations that includes it. But I started choosing samples in the first place to ensure that I would get a least ONE thing in my box that I liked, because the previous couple of boxes had also been blah.

If I were paying the full $10 for each box, I would probably be even more frustrated. Luckily I signed up using that really good deal that appeared briefly last summer, so I'm making back most of the cost of each box through points. It's really the points system that still makes BB come out ahead of Ipsy. With a normal $10 a month subscription, you get $5 a month back in credits. And if you shop for things you would be buying anyway in the BB shop, you get more points, which are worth more than points you'd get from other stores, like Sephora, because you can shop with them.

Here's some of the stuff I've got using my credit over the last few months:

These are things that I just never could have afforded to try right now if I had to use real money. (Of all of them, I recommend the tea the most. Yum.) I did have a couple of referrals (thanks!), but the vast majority of the points were earned through the usual monthly reviews of products, and I used promo codes and sales to get good deals. To be honest, even if BB keeps womp-womping me with the boxes, I might stay subscribed after my year runs out, because of the points. But the conspiracy theory part of my brain wonders if they are sending me less interesting things, because I have already paid for a year, and they don't have to worry about enticing me to stay. That's impossible, right? It's all automated, right? And computers can't decide which beauty products are less exciting. Right??

So that is my current view of Birchbox. Boxes = meh. Points = yay! I just wish they would make some sort of effort to send me things that matched my profile. Wouldn't that be in their best interest? I can't remember the last time they sent me a sample of something that I actually wanted to buy from their store after trying it.

If you want to roll the dice and play the points game, here's my referral link. If you do decide to sign up, you should definitely google for a promo code that will get you 100 points when you do. There seem to be new ones every month. Maybe you can crack the secret to the perfect profile setup. Because telling them what you actually want apparently isn't the trick.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Giveaway! My Paula's Choice favorites ($149 value)

Because the people who read my blog are so awesome and have clicked my Paula's Choice referral link so many times, I've been able to try and to review a ton of different products from that brand over the past year. I have also been able to keep using my favorite skin care products even when I've been unemployed or underemployed, which is something I really fucking appreciate. So in gratitude, I wanted to give some back. I'm going to send my five favorite Paula's Choice products to the winner of this giveaway.

The prize will include:

2% BHA Liquid (reviewed here)

Skin Balancing Moisture Gel (reviewed here)

Resist Ultra-Light Antioxidant Serum (reviewed here)

Resist C15 Super Booster (reviewed here)

Tooth Whitener (reviewed here)

It's a $149 value in total.

I've chosen the things that I've found myself replacing when they run out, which I think is a good sign that they are reliable. The moisturizer and BHA I've been using for at least a decade (and that makes me feel fucking old). The tooth whitener I've been using for a few years, and the serum I just discovered last year, but I've already bought my third tube. The sort of exception is the Vitamin C serum. I'm still a little on the fence about it, but I recently did a consumer trial of a serum from another brand that I absolutely hated for over a week, and it left my skin looking really sad. When the test period was over, the Resist C15 was one of the first things I used, and my skin perked right up. It wasn't the only product I used, so who knows how responsible it was for my recovery. But technically I am on my second bottle, after using up a trial size first. Also, it seems like something lots of people would be curious to try, but nervous about shelling out the $48, so I figured it would be fun to include here.

Obviously most of these things will work best for people with skin like mine (combination leaning more toward oily than dry) - but these are the things I can vouch for. (If you are allergic to aspirin, you shouldn't use the BHA liquid - but you can enter anyway and we can work out a different option if you win. That will be the only exception I'll make. Any other winner will get this set.)

To enter, you only have to provide your email address using the gadget below so I can contact you if you win. If you want additional entries, there are other options, but they aren't required. One winner will be chosen at random from all the entries. Once the winner has been announced and contacted, they will have 48 hours to respond with their mailing address. If I don't hear anything in 48 hours, I'll pick someone else. (Well, I'll let the gadget pick someone for me.) I will have the prizes shipped to you directly from Paula's Choice (i.e. they will be brand new, not the products pictured above that I have here at home). That means I can send things either to US or Canadian addresses.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is in no way officially affiliated with Paula's Choice. They don't know I'm doing it. It's not meant to promote Paula's Choice. I just like some of their products - you can see reviews of things I like and things I don't like under this tag.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirant

Disclosure: I received these products for free from BzzAgent. Anyone can sign up and get free products to test and review. You do not need a blog. My review, as always, remains brutally honest.

Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirants in "nourished beauty" and "cool essentials"
Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirants in "nourished beauty" and "cool essentials"
Spray deodorant* reminds me of middle and high school gym class growing up in Canada. We weren't given enough time to shower after gym class, just barely enough time to change back into our regular clothes. This led to the use of a lot of spray deodorant, because (I think) it was considered less "gross" to spray stuff on your stinky pits than to rub a solid stick over and over again in your sweat. There was a definite deodorant hierarchy: spray > stick > roll-on. Roll-on people were hopeless nerds.

High school is ridiculous.

(*I do know the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant. One prevents perspiration and the other just improves smells. This particular product serves both purposes, so I'm just going to go with "deodorant," because it feels less awkward to me. Who really calls it antiperspirant?)

I've recently learned that in the U.S., spray deodorants all but disappeared from the market by at least the 80s with concerns about the environmental impacts of CFCs in aerosol cans. For whatever reason, Canadians and Europeans blissfully kept on using them all along. But aerosol's today aren't so bad. I mean, they're not perfect, but I think they have a lingering bad reputation that they don't necessarily deserve. Almost all the products we use are terrible and wasteful, so we have to figure out what our own thresholds are for that kind of stuff.

BzzAgent mailed me a can of the "nourished beauty" scent (with the blue cap). Very descriptive name! I assumed that this was the original Dove fragrance that most of their products have, but it's not really. They also sent me a coupon for another free can of my choice, from any of the brands that have released these dry sprays: Dove, Degree, or Axe. I offered to let my boyfriend try one, but he is apparently not a deodorant experimenter. I decided to buy a can of the Degree version for myself, so that I could compare it to the Dove that I already had. The Degree version has 23.3% of the active ingredient, aluminum chlorohydrate, while the Dove version has 20.2%. Not a huge difference, but could make for an interesting comparison, right?

At Kroger, where I bought this stuff, the only Degree fragrances they had on the shelf were "sheer powder" (bleh!) and "fresh energy" (meh?). But they had the Dove in "cool essentials," which is the cucumber fragrance, and I couldn't resist. I abandoned potentially interesting blogging for selfish reasons. I just really like that cucumber scent. (Both the Degree and Dove versions come in additional scents, but these were the only ones I found when I went shopping.)

This deodorant claims to apply instantly dry and to work for 48 hours. Initially, I assumed that "dry spray" just mean that it keeps you dry. You know, it's a spray to create dryness. But no, it does in fact go on dry. I don't know how. Some kind of sorcery, no doubt. It's quite nice, because it doesn't feel icy on your armpits when you apply it first thing in the morning in the middle of the winter and you're cheap frugal and only heat your apartment to 60 degrees at night. And you don't have to flap your arms around like fucking chicken wings waiting for it to dry like you do with gel formulas.

The downside in comparison to a solid, for me, is that I have to put this stuff on before I get dressed so that I don't spray it on my clothes, With a stick, I prefer to put in on under my shirt, both to limit nudity in my frigid bedroom, and to avoid smearing it on a shirt when I get dressed. That extra 20 seconds of partial nakedness is not something I am super excited to incorporate into my routine. On the plus side, I haven't noticed any of it transferring to my clothing when I get dressed. It does seem to be invisible.

The fragrance of the two varieties I have is very, very strong. My entire home smells like "nourished beauty" or "cool essentials" for a good 30-60 minutes after I use it. And it's not like I have terrible aim. But hey, maybe that's a benefit? Two-for-one: deodorant + air freshener. To me, the "nourished beauty" fragrance doesn't smell much like the traditional Dove fragrance that I expected. It really is more like some kind of Glade air freshener that is vaguely pleasant but not memorable enough to really describe. (Is that a cop out? I never can describe scents.) The "cool essentials" fragrance is more like what I expected it to be, and if you've ever bought any other Dove products with cucumbers on the package, you'll recognize it.

As for the 48 hour claim, it comes pretty close. In the name of blogging science, I tried to hold out on showering as long as possible to see how swampy my pits would get while using this stuff. I will say that I am not an excessively sweaty person. If I accidentally forget to wear deodorant one day, it's not great, but it's not a catastrophe. So that's my baseline. I got to about 30 hours without showering, and then I couldn't stand it anymore, mostly because my hair had long since overcome the efforts of my dry shampoo. At the point, my armpits were just very slightly sweaty and not at all smelly. As far as I could tell. I didn't force anyone else to confirm - in fact, I didn't leave the house during the test period. So maybe not 48 hours guaranteed, but longer than a typical antiperspirant. You might have even better results with the stronger Degree sprays. Really, though, my no showering experiment shouldn't have been necessary, because since antiperspirants work by plugging sweat glands (creepy), they technically should continue working to some extent even after showering.

I will probably go back to my favorite Mitchum solid when I use up these cans. (One thing I can't say yet is how long a can will last before it's empty. I usually get several months out of a stick.) But I can think of some reasons people might like this spray. If you tend to get deodorant transferring on to your clothes when you use a solid, that doesn't seem to be a problem with this. And I think it's preferable to other "invisible" formulas, like gels, because you don't have to wait for it to dry, and it's not sticky. It also does continue working for quite a long time - longer, if I remember correctly, than the "clinical" stuff that I last tried out a few years ago. If you like very intense fragrances in your deodorant, this will deliver - though if not, you should definitely avoid it.

I'm not necessarily an end-every-post-with-a-question blogger, but I am curious: anyone else planning to try these sprays out?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Illamasqua is on HauteLook today (nail polishes for $7.50, lipsticks, glosses, and eyeliners for $12)

Disclosure: This post contains a referral link.
Unless things have changed recently, Illamasqua is no longer being sold in the US outside of ebay - and sales like this one on HauteLook. Last time the showed up on HL, things sold out pretty fucking fast, so you might want to get on that. I don't have any Illamasqua stuff personally, because it's pricey, but there are some major fans out there. The beloved Raindrops nail polish is included in the sale. I'm tempted, despite my anti-hoarding plans.

I've said this before, but the upside of HL are the prices, obviously. I've ordered tons of things from them with no problems - they're not particularly shady, since they're affiliated with Nordstrom. The downside is that your stuff will take weeks to ship. So don't order anything you want immediately.

You need an account to browse or buy, so here's my link, if you want to use it.

(And if you're going to buy something anyway, you should add the Chella pencil sharpener from $2.50 to your order. I got mine form Birchbox, and it's the best sharpener I have ever used. Even sharpens fat lip pencils without making a mess!)

Virgin Mobile is really fucking cheap

This is just a heads up, because I think this may be the cheapest/most comprehensive cell plan out there, and I wish I'd been aware of it before I wasted so many years with AT&T and T-Mobile, etc. I have a Virgin Mobile phone and originally my plan was unlimited text and data + 300 minutes for $35 a month. Then I got $5 off a month for using auto-payments. Then one day out of the blue, they informed me I had unlimited talk minutes now. Today I checked, and my bill has gone down to $30 a month, minus $5 for auto-pay. So $25 a month for completely unlimited everything. I don't know if this latest price is a temporary deal, or if it's something I got for being with them for a year, but I'm not complaining. They use Sprint's network, so it's pretty decent.

The downside is that I don't have any service when I travel outside of the US, which is annoying, since my family is in Canada. Oh and their website is kind of shit, so if you need help, it's best to just call.

You can get $25 off using my link (I do too), so here it is:
(I hope no one in Canada read that. Sorry. Some day I hope to join you again, and I will have to give up my cheap phone and internet bills too.)

Friday, January 30, 2015

A round of empties

I almost placed a Sephora order this morning and bought the new Flash shipping thing, where you pay $10 and you get 2-day shipping for free (well, I guess for $10/n) for a year. Then I looked at my paycheck and my bank account, and I was like, "Fuck no." I mean, it is a really good deal. It's like Amazon Prime on crack or something. But it's not going to help with any of my anti-hoarding and money saving goals.

In the spirit of anti-hoarding, I posted a box full of makeup and nail polish on Freecycle. It took almost 2 weeks of people contacting me to say they wanted it and then never getting back to me, but finally someone picked it all up. There were probably nearly 100 items in there, many of which were brand new, and most of which were nearly new. It feels damn good to be rid of it.

And then there are the empties. I have fun reading other people's empties posts, so hopefully this is interesting for someone out there. I'm not doing them on any particular schedule - just whenever I have enough that I feel like taking a photo. I took this one because I wanted to refill the Too Faced powder container with the nice Maybelline powder in the shitty jar.

I won't mini-review everything here. As a rule, I'm not going to comment on shampoos (since I don't find too much variation in them) or card/foil samples unless there is something exceptional about them. But if you have questions, you can always let me know.

Roughly top left to bottom right:

Escada Cherry in the Air Perfume sample: I liked the initial cherry fragrance, but that faded within minutes and left behind a blah floral scent.

Juice Beauty Hydrating Mist: As you can see, this is nowhere near empty. I tried to use it, and even kept it in the fridge over the summer to us eon really hot days, but I just didn't like it enough to bother. I actually found that it made my skin feel tight and dry, not hydrated. Since I'd had it for over a year and a half, I decided it was time to throw it out, rather than to give it away to someone.

Clear Color & Damage Repair Shampoo sample

Tresemme Split Remedy Shampoo sample

Cerave Moisturizing Lotion: Reviewed here. It was adequate.

Too Faced Primed and Poreless Powder mini: This is a good loose setting powder. It has a slightly yellow tint, and it looks like it might have some shimmer, but that doesn't really show up on the skin. The mini was big enough that I was able to use it for several months. I'd consider buying it again if there was a good sale, once all my other powders are gone. I prefer it to your typical "HD" silica powder.

Shiseido Ultimune Serum foil

Covergirl Clump Crusher mascara (brown): Reviewed here. I like it. I thought that I hadn't been using it for very long, so I looked up my review, and it turns out that I opened it in August. So tossing it in December was a good idea. Sometimes having a blog is useful - though it hadn't dried up much in 4 months, which is impressive.

Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Invisible Finish Moisture Gel: Reviewed here. I love this stuff.

Simple Protecting Light Moisturizer SPF 15: Reviewed here. I liked this a lot too. It was great for lazy days when I was mainly going to be working from home and just wanted some basic moisturizer with SPF. I'll probably buy it again once I use up some other things.

Batiste Cherry Dry Shampoo: Mini Instagram review here. Probably my favorite dry shampoo of all the ones I've tried. I'll buy it again, but not until I finish up the expensive Oscar Blandi and Klorane ones that I have now and don't like as much.

Paula's Choice Clear Regular Strength Exfoliating Solution: Bought this by mistake. Won't be doing that again. The one reviewed here is the real deal.

Suave Smoothing with Cocoa and Shea Butter Lotion sample: Thin consistency, mediocre.

Paula's Choice Hydralight Cleanser: As I've said before, PC cleansers are good, but they are overpriced when you can get excellent, gentle cleansers from brands like Neutrogena for a fraction of the price.

I've already finished up a bunch of other shit since I took this photo. It's very satisfying.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Stitch Fix Update (featuring one of the most WTF garments I've seen in a while)

I wasn't really planning to write another Stitch Fix post, but then they sent me something that I had to take a photo of to show my sister, and I thought maybe other people would find it as perplexing/amusing as we did. So while I was at it, I took photos of the rest of the box too. (You can see my previous posts about Stitch Fix here, which include what I think the value of the service is and who it's best suited to.)

I kept thinking about the perfectly-fitting but defective jeans SF sent me last time. I'd emailed the company that makes them, and they said SF was the only retailer who sold them in tall sizes. I have such a hard time finding flattering, comfortable jeans that are the right length, so I finally caved and ordered another "fix". I added a note specifically requesting another pair of those jeans. Here's what I got this time.

What I kept:

stitch fix review

The coveted jeans from Kensie, which fit just like the last pair, but without lopsided pockets. They are so comfortable that I sometimes forget to change into yoga pants for hours after I get home, which is saying a lot. I do not usually keep my outside clothes on at home. They are also thick and sturdy, so I don;t think they will wear out any time soon. (The whiskering is less conspicuous in person.)

These sage colored/grey-green pants from Level 99 don't look like much on the hanger, but they are shockingly flattering on me - perfect length, nicely cut, straight leg, medium rise. And so soft and comfortable. They are stretchy but they don't bag or get stretched out of shape. They are made out of an apparently magical fibre called tencel (or Lyocell), which I hadn't encountered before. I really thought carefully about whether or not I should keep these, because they cost $80, and they didn't seem like the most versatile thing in the world. I conferred with my sister, though, and she enabled me  - because how often do not-terrible pants come along? They've turned out to be wearable for more occasions than I originally thought, too. I even wore them on a flight. That's a true test of comfort.

What I sent back:

I'll just start with the pièce de résistance.

What even is this?? For some reason, I find this top hilarious. In case it isn't clear, it's like a sweater that I would have picked out at Sears when I was 13 with just the bottom part of a shirt attached to it. It's some kind of Frankenstein garment. I get the concept of those tops that look like sweaters with button up shirts under then, but there isn't an actual shirt, so that you can avoid lumpiness - that's not what this is. This just has the bottom of the shirt. The low v-neck with no collar makes it abundantly clear that there's simply some weird fabric hanging from the bottom. It's confusing and meaningless and ugly. I don't know why they sent me this, but it did provide some entertainment. I think I recoiled the second I pulled it out of the box.

stitch fix review

This cardigan was okay, but I don't really do sequins. I feel like they would be especially annoying to have on your elbows if you wanted to lean on something (bad table manners).

This top seemed to be poorly made. You can see how it's hanging kind of wonky on the hanger - it was like that on me too. The buttons on the sleeves stuck out and it was overall lumpy and awkward. Not worth what they wanted for it.

As usual, Stitch Fix is a bit of a crapshoot. This is the first time I've ever liked two things in my box enough to actually buy them both, and they were both pants. That's some kind of miracle. But then everything else wasn't even close. At least I got some entertainment out of it.

Here's my referral link if you'd like to roll the dice.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

TheBalm Meet Matt(e) Nude Eyeshadow Palette vs. Paula's Choice The Nude Mattes Eyeshadow Palette

Disclosure: This post contains referral links.
I got TheBalm's Meet Matt(e) Nude eyeshadow palette in September after reading positive reviews of it and deciding that I needed some less shimmery eye options for work. I picked it up for $21 from Hautelook, which, as I've said before, is really the best place I've come across to buy TheBalm products, so long as you can be a little patient. They're almost always marked down 50% and they have a good selection there, including most of the newer palettes and other products. (TheBalm usually has a 50% off sale once or twice a year on their own site, but it almost always seems to be a mess, with the site crashing all over the place, and it only lasts 24 hours.) TheBalm is on HauteLook at this very moment, which is why I figured it would be a good idea to write up this comparison today (in case my saying it's "fine" ignites a burning passion in anyone?).

I posted a quick review of the palette on Instagram and noted that the shadows were fine, but that there were no good highlight shades. Most of the shades are very dark, with the exception of one fairly stark white, which I just don't find useful.

Then in December Paula's Choice had a deal where you could get their Nude Mattes eyeshadow palette, which is usually $40, for free with a $60 purchase. Since I had some credits to use and I needed to replace some of my regular products anyway, I made a bigger order than I would usually do in order to get the eyeshadow palette. Exactly what they wanted me to do. I was a good mark, obviously. Why do I need another eyeshadow palette when I have approximately a billion fucking eyeshadows that I am never going to use up, you ask? I DON'T. This is why I'm trying to get my shit together. And as part of that, I've decided that I am going to get rid of one of these two palettes. I wanted to compare them, and I was not-so-secretly hoping that TheBalm came out behind, since it's less versatile. Since I wanted to do the comparison for myself anyway, and since writing these things out helps me make decisions, I figured I might as well make a post of it. So here we go.

Paula's Choice The Nude Mattes and TheBalm Meet Matt(e) Nude
Paula's Choice The Nude Mattes and TheBalm Meet Matt(e) Nude
Paula's Choice The Nude Mattes and TheBalm Meet Matt(e) Nude
Paula's Choice The Nude Mattes and TheBalm Meet Matt(e) Nude
The comparison is pretty simple. I used the brush that came with the PC palette, which is a soft but otherwise not very effective brush, to swatch shades that look similar. Obviously they are not identical, but I thought it made sense to compare them this way. I didn't swatch every shade. TheBalm palette has 9 and the PC palette has 12. I didn't do a comparison for the white ("Matt Malloy") or the yellowish ("Matt Lombardi") shades, since nothing in the PC palette came close, and they are shadows I'm not likely to use anyway. Here's how things compare without the use of primer.

Swatches of Paula's Choice The Nude Mattes (top row) and TheBalm Meet Matt(e) Nude (bottom row)
Swatches of Paula's Choice The Nude Mattes (top row) and TheBalm Meet Matt(e) Nude (bottom row)
Overall, I guess TheBalm's shadows are slightly more pigmented (maybe?), but the think the difference is negligible. TheBalm's browns perform a bit better, but the grays/taupes are the same or worse. Note that the PC shadows might be just a little more powdery, in case mess bothers you, and the powder does show up on the black packaging. The texture of the TheBalm shadows is not perfect, either, though.

Then I swatched two similar shades from each palette (a grey/taupe and a brown) over Wet N Wild eyeshadow primer (my favorite primer, all things considered), since I always use primer when I wear eyeshadow. It makes sense to compare them that way, for me.

Swatches of Paula's Choice The Nude Mattes (top row) and TheBalm Meet Matt(e) Nude (bottom row)
Swatches of Paula's Choice The Nude Mattes (top row) and TheBalm Meet Matt(e) Nude (bottom row)
With primer, there's really no difference at all. That means I'm going to ditch the palette from TheBalm and keep the one from Paula's Choice.

In an overall comparison, they each have strengths and weaknesses - and since their regular price is very close ($42 for Meet Matt(e) Nudes vs. $40 for The Nude Mattes), they are worth considering together. The advantage of the PC set is that it has more shades, and that it has more light shades to use for highlighting. It even has one shimmer/satin light shade to use for that purpose. It's a little heavy on the darker shades, I think, which is a negative for me. It goes from very light to very dark quickly, without much in the middle. I would gladly exchange the black, which is a color that I already have a million versions of and one that I rarely use, for another medium shade. Maybe a lighter taupe.

TheBalm's palette has the advantage of containing more than twice as much product for only an extra $2 (25.5 g vs. 12 g), so value wise it's a better deal. (You do get a brush with the PC set, and they clearly tried to go for a non-crap brush, but it's pretty lackluster, so I'm not factoring it into the value.) Meet Matt(e) Nude also has some more unusual shades, if you already own a lot of neutrals. But for me that wasn't a big plus, since the unusual ones are a yellowish beige that looks dreadful on me, and a barely-off white that I really can't find a use for. It's also not really a palette than I can use on its own, because I like to have a highlight color, and that white isn't doing it for me. So it wouldn't be great for travel, for example. (Maybe the original Meet Matt(e) palette would be a better choice, but I haven't tried it. And I won't be buying more eyeshadow for a while.) As for the design of the packaging? That might be a plus or a minus for you. I'm personally not a huge fan of the big dude face on it.

For me, the PC palette makes more sense to hold on to. If you were considering both of them at full price, TheBalm is a better value - and it is especially a lot of product for your dollar if you get it half price from Hautelook. The best deal you're probably going to get on the Paula's Choice palette, unless they give it away as a gift with purchase again, is to use someone's referral link (here's mine) for $10 off a purchase on a new account. And wait until they offer free shipping, which happens pretty frequently. $30 is better than $40.

I am usually someone with Opinions, but I'm going to have to say this one comes down to what you will personally get more use out of. In terms of performance, the two are virtually the same. You get more product from TheBalm, but if you're never going to use it all, then that's not necessarily worth paying for. I'm going to ditch TheBalm's palette, because it's taking up space, and I need to be more brutal about culling my hoard.